Rx for Online ROI: Design

Building a web site design that will help attract, serve and retain members through an online channel.




In the first part of this series, we discussed the vital nature of online banking ‘usability' – the overall ease with which the user interfaces with your credit union online . Next, we're showcasing sound Web site design and content, without which credit unions cannot fully realize their potential to attract, retain and serve their membership via the online channel. Whether your credit union is launching a first-ever Web site, or redesigning an existing one – it's recommended that you do so every 3-5 years – read on to discover what sound Web site design and content can contribute to online your ROI.

Lay the Foundation

Information architecture (see Figure 1 below) provides the blue print for your Web site construction. Think about it in terms of building a house: all the rooms have to be laid out and conceived before breaking ground. Don't start building your Web site with out it.

Content Counts

No matter how visually appealing your Web site is, if the copy is not clear, concise and properly laid out, you will have failed. Consider the following 1 :

  • 79% of Web users scan Web pages
  • 16% of Web users read Web pages word for word
  • People read 25% slower on the Web then they read print

Bearing these facts in mind, you must follow these rules to create content that really counts:

Write in Chunks

The New York Times reviews the best-written hardback fiction novels today, which are typically crime related. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connely is currently ranked first one week after publication. Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts is ranked second on its premier week…

The New York Times Top 5 hardback fiction novels:
1. The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly
2. Blue Smoke, by Nora Roberts.
3. A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon

With its brief heading, the “do” uses a list format, consistent layout and isn't unnecessarily complex: an excellent example of effective Web site content.

Create descriptive links

For more information on our student checking accounts, click here.

We have additional information about our student checking accounts .

Avoid Marketing Speak: Even if you love the catchy name for your seniors' checking program, users may be unfamiliar with it. Only use marketing-speak if followed by its descriptor, i.e. STAR Senior Checking Program.

Be More Concise : Write no more than 50% of the text you would have used to cover the same material in a print publication.

Be Scan-Friendly : Avoid continuous blocks of text. Use short paragraphs, subheadings and bulleted lists stating the most relevant information first.

Follow Formatting Conventions:

  • Bold important information
  • Use bullets
  • Choose a legible text color
  • Use a san serif font when possible
  • Don't use ALL CAPS
  • Don't Mix caps
  • Don't underline
  • Don't use exclamation points!
  • Don't use blinking text

Web Site Design : Consistency is King

While there are many important features necessary to create a user-friendly Web site, the most important one, by far, is consistency.

When a Web site offers consistent layouts (i.e. backgrounds of every page have a similar look and feel) and consistent navigation (i.e. navigation bars are fixed in same place on all pages), users 2 …

  • Adapt quickly to your Web site's layout and structure
  • Confidently predict the location of information
  • Stick: if they don't get disoriented, they won't abandon the site

User friendly layouts include:

  • Effective white space: This emphasizes text and improves readability (‘white space' doesn't have to be white – it represents any space in the design that does not include text)
  • Design for common resolution: 800 x 600 DPI
  • ALT tags : The copy that tells users what should be there if for some reason a non-text element, like a photo or graph, cannot be displayed.
  • Words, not icons : Never a combination of the two
  • No pop-ups and splash pages
  • No animated logos or text

Navigation Know How

Limit global navigation – the main navigation bar – by grouping similar topics under each global navigation bar “button.” Employ utility navigation – the smaller print navigation located at the bottom and top of the page (i.e. contact us, site map, home, help) – effectively.

Web Site Maintenance

Regular Web site maintenance is imperative. Remember the information architecture – or the site's “blueprint”? Refer to it often to make sure your site's structure stays aligned. Other maintenance best practices include:

  • New design elements must complement existing design, including text and its visual hierarchy
  • The site must be updated often
  • A commitment to featured products, promotions and special sections means follow through: don't do them if you aren't going to tend to them

Most importantly, remember that you don't have to recreate the wheel. Hundreds of financial institutions have tested and retested what works online and you should benefit from their experience. Implement these best practices, and watch: as your Web site's usability and design improves, your membership satisfaction will grow, providing measurable return on your investment in the Web.

1 Design ing Web Usability , Jacob Nielson

2 Lynch and Horton's Web Style Guide, 2nd Edition

About Digital Insight
Digital Insight® Corporation (www.digitalinsight.com) is the leading online banking provider for financial institutions. Through its comprehensive portfolio of Internet-based financial products and services built upon the company’s unique architecture, Digital Insight enables banks and credit unions to become the trusted transaction hub for their retail and commercial customers.




Aug. 28, 2006


  • Good points.
  • A very well written article. Holding true to the content of this article, it is concise and direct. I shared this with others in my office who are less aware of web design, information architecture and web copywriting. I look forward to further articles!